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Lasting City: The Anatomy of Nostalgia by…
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Lasting City: The Anatomy of Nostalgia

by James McCourt

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Lasting City: The Anatomy of Nostalgia has a consistently maintained, very striking quality, which is evidenced on the very first page. Specifically there is a palpable, contagious energy in author James McCourt's style that is very original among my past reading experience. My preliminary edition of the book includes a paragraph on the first page that sets the stage for our hero's story thusly: "In the Beginning was the the Word, and the Word was Shazam..." I hope that line remains in the final edition firstly because I adore it but also because the exclamation Shazam! speaks to the peculiar, ebullient quality of the narration at least as well as any way I can think to describe it for you, fellow readers.

Now, I am a slow and pensive reader -- always have been -- yet the tremendous energy of McCourt's prose was not at all jarring or incompatible with my reading habits. Rather, I found I was buoyed along through the story faster than I would be otherwise due to the narration's strong pacing. I should also note that the rhythmic (this seems a particularly apt description as I write it), forcefully paced narration did not undermine the poignancy or any other substantive effect of the story during my reading. I found a number of McCourt's reflections uniquely moving in fact.

In addition to its unique & exciting narrative technique and the moving moments in stories and reflections that are shared in this memoir, the sheer wit of the author is a significant draw for this book. I recommend it highly to any reader who finds herself attracted to the work based on what she has read of the memoir's particular storyline. ( )
  kara.shamy | Feb 12, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0871404583, Hardcover)

A profoundly American work with distinct echoes of Samuel Beckett, Lasting City hypnotizes with its symphonic lyricism.

Enjoined by his dying mother to "tell everything," James McCourt was liberated by this deathbed wish to do just that. The result is Lasting City, a gripping, uniquely McCourt invention: an operatic recollection that braids a nostalgic portrait of old-Irish New York with a boy’s funny, gutter-snipe precocity and hardly innocent coming-of-age in the 1940s and '50s. A literary outlaw in the poetic tradition of Verlaine and Baudelaire, McCourt tells his own story, his mother's, his family's, and that of a lost New York, the lasting city. While ostensibly an account of the author's first seven years, Lasting City expands into a philosophical exploration of memory, perhaps as daring a statement on perception as anything since Faulkner—a kaleidoscopic unraveling of time.

Mating fact with fantasy, or fantasy with fact, McCourt takes us from his deeply moving bedside account of his mother Catherine’s death to its traumatic aftermaths both real and imagined, which are—as McCourt tells it—equally real. He revisits the fantasy city of his youth, sometimes in soliloquy, as well as in the plaintive threnody of an older man who recounts his tales of woe to a Hindu cabdriver named Pramit Banarjee on Broadway, only hours after leaving his mother’s bedside. By celebrating our powerlessness over memory, he explores the darkly intense Irish-American family romance and the love-hate relationship between an unusually bright boy and his eternally wise mother, who harbored an excruciating guilty secret.

With Joycean panache, McCourt then takes us to the wake, where his aunts recall their sister as if they are the Fates; he has a late-night dialogue with a former showgirl turned hash-slinging waitress; and he then anticipates his own death with the some of the most lyrical cadences in recent literature, wondering whether his ashes will be scattered on the waters of that little rivulet emerging from Central Park's Ramble, where in his grandfather’s day, real Venetian gondoliers, imported from Venice, plied their trade.

Reflecting McCourt's belief that "the perfectly diagrammed sentence has become the secret weapon of nice people," Lasting City, written as much for the ear as the reading eye, unfolds in multiple voices that are at times like theater and at times the reverie of a mind lost in memory. It is a heartfelt aria to a lost time and to an eternal city.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:04 -0400)

Enjoined by his dying mother to "tell everything," James McCourt was liberated by this deathbed wish to do just that. The result is Lasting City, a gripping, uniquely McCourt invention: an operatic recollection that braids a nostalgic portrait of old-Irish New York with a boy's funny, gutter-snipe precocity and hardly innocent coming-of-age in the 1940s and '50s. A literary outlaw in the poetic tradition of Verlaine and Baudelaire, McCourt tells his own story, his mother's, his family's, and that of a lost New York, the lasting city. While ostensibly an account of the author's first seven years, Lasting City expands into a philosophical exploration of memory, perhaps as daring a statement on perception as anything since Faulkner--a kaleidoscopic unraveling of time.… (more)

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